Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, in January 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law sweeping changes to New Jersey’s mini-WARN act. The first-of-its-kind law in the nation required mandatory severance payments for employees who lost their jobs in a mass layoff. We discussed details of the changes here. The law was scheduled to
As we previously reported here and here, in January 2021 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a business-friendly final rule concerning the classification of workers as independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The final rule, which was scheduled to take effect in March 2021 (but never did), reaffirmed the use of the so-called “economic reality test” to distinguish between independent contractors and employees under the federal wage/hour law. In essence, the rule was intended to provide a more uniform approach to worker classification.
Shortly after taking office, however, President Biden postponed the effective date of the final rule and suggested it should be repealed. The Biden administration has now followed through on that plan, with the DOL blocking the rule entirely earlier today. In a press release announcing the rule’s withdrawal, the DOL stated: “Upon further review and consideration of the rule and having considered the public comments, the [DOL] does not believe that the Independent Contractor Rule is fully aligned with the FLSA’s text or purpose, or with decades of case law describing and applying the multifactor economic realities test.”Continue Reading Department of Labor withdraws pro-business independent contractor final rule
New Jersey has confirmed that employers can mandate their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. This move aligns New Jersey with federal guidance previously issued by the EEOC. Other states, such as California, have also issued similar guidance and the trend is expected to continue.
Consistent with federal guidance from the EEOC, the New Jersey guidance provides that employers may require employees to be vaccinated to be present on the worksite, however, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who: (i) have a disability, (ii) have been advised not to get the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, or (iii) who will not get the vaccine due to sincerely held religious beliefs. Note, however, that if no reasonable accommodation can be provided, an employer can enforce its policy of excluding unvaccinated employees from the workplace.
Continue Reading New Jersey issues guidance confirming employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccines
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Among the most significant changes for employers are the provisions related to COBRA. The ARPA provides assistance-eligible individuals (AEI) with the opportunity for a 100 percent subsidy for COBRA premiums between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021 (the Subsidy Period).
AEI include all COBRA qualified beneficiaries who are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage due to an involuntarily termination (or a reduction of hours) during the Subsidy Period and individuals who would have been AEI, but previously dropped or declined such coverage (i.e., their maximum COBRA coverage period would have extended beyond April 1, 2021). This is true regardless of whether their termination was related to the pandemic. In other words, any individual who qualified for COBRA because of an involuntary termination or reduction in hours with a coverage period that would have extended beyond April 1, 2021, is now eligible to elect coverage and take advantage of the subsidy. Employers (or their plan administrators) must provide updated COBRA notices to AEI. The Department of Labor is required to issue a model notice within the next thirty days. AEI will have sixty days from receipt of the notice to elect COBRA coverage, which will be retroactive to April 1, 2021.
Continue Reading COBRA changes under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
On February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (NJCREAMMA) and other related bills into law which legalize and regulate recreational cannabis use and possession for adults over the age of 21. With the enactment of NJCREAMMA, New Jersey now prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for off-duty recreational marijuana use (or decision not to use). These requirements are effective immediately.
Prior to the enactment of NJCREAMMA, New Jersey employers were prohibited from discriminating against individuals who are certified to use medical marijuana and required to engage in the interactive process with employees who request accommodations for medical marijuana use. NJCREAMMA extends the discrimination prohibitions to recreational marijuana users and prohibits employers from refusing to hire, discharging, or taking “any adverse action against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment because that person does or does not smoke, vape, aerosolize or otherwise use cannabis items.” In addition, these prohibitions extend to positive drug tests where solely cannabinoid metabolites are present in the employee’s system.
Continue Reading New Jersey legalizes recreational marijuana use: What this means for employers
On October 28, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 192, which will require a series of workplace protections for workers beginning on November 5, 2020. Importantly, nothing in Executive Order 192 repeals, supersedes, or modifies the requirement of Executive Order 107 that requires businesses to “accommodate their workforce, wherever practical, for telework or work-from home arrangements.” Employers with in-person staffing are also expected to keep staffing to the “minimum number necessary” and to abide by all other restrictions regarding indoor capacity limitations.
Now, in addition to the prior requirements, workplaces that require or permit a workforce to be physically present at a worksite must, at minimum:
Continue Reading New Jersey implements additional safeguards for workers in response to rising COVID-19 cases
On June 9, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Twitter that he was “signing an Executive Order LIFTING [New Jersey’s] STAY-AT-HOME ORDER” as the state enters “Phase 2” of the recovery process. Many news outlets and employers took this announcement to mean there would be significant changes for New Jersey businesses. However, the executive orders the Governor signed on June 9, 2020 brought only incremental change and will not adjust operations for most New Jersey office workers.
As New Jersey continues on the road to recovery, Executive Order 152 eliminates the earlier requirement that mandated (with limited exceptions) that New Jersey residents remain at home. This Order, however (along with many of the recent New Jersey executive orders slowly lifting Covid-19 restrictions) is focused more on recreational and personal activities than workplace operations. Specifically, the Order adjusts requirements for permissible indoor and outdoor gatherings, allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people and indoor gatherings of up to 25% of a building’s capacity, to a maximum of 50 people. Such gatherings are also subject to several additional requirements, including wearing face coverings, demarcating six feet, and arranging for contactless payment for any fees and/or donations wherever feasible.Continue Reading New Jersey “lifts” stay at home order – but little changes for most employers
New Jersey started the reopening process, lifting restrictions on certain business operations the State previously shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As employers in these industries resume operations, there are many legal considerations, including adopting policies and practices to ensure compliance with the State’s required mitigation efforts.
While New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is permitting many outdoor industries to reopen as the summer season approaches, these businesses will remain subject to an array of legal requirements. The specific requirements for each industry are laid out in a series of Executive Orders signed by Governor Murphy, including: EO 142 (non-essential construction, non-essential retail), EO 143 (beaches & boardwalks), EO 146 (charter boats and watercraft rentals), and EO 147 (outdoor recreation). While the exact requirements vary by industry, all of the requirements are aimed at maintaining social distancing, limiting person-to-person contact, and mitigating exposure risks for employees and customers.Continue Reading New Jersey slowly begins lifting operating restrictions for certain industries
As we have previously reported, several states, including New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, now require employees, customers and/or the public to wear face coverings. As we have also written about, in other states, like California, local governments are leading the way. For example, Bay Area counties Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, and Contra Costa all require face coverings to some degree. Since then, additional California municipalities have also joined, including San Bernardino, Riverside, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Carson, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena. Links to our prior publications on these location-specific mandates can be found below.
Other states and municipalities continue to follow suit. As of April 17, employees of essential businesses in Hawaii must wear face coverings. On April 18, Maryland established a similar requirement for employees, as well as customers over nine years of age. Like California, in states that are not currently requiring face coverings, some local governments have taken the initiative to establish their own requirements. For example, in Illinois, Cicero, Glenview, Highland Park, Morton Grove, Niles, Skokie and Wilmette have each implemented some type of face covering requirement. Municipalities in other states that have joined the movement include Laredo, Texas; Miami, Florida; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Chickasaw, Oklahoma.
Continue Reading Employers must face it: Face covering requirements growing across states and municipalities
As the Garden State continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order 125, expanding the industries subject to additional mitigation requirements. This Executive Order includes similar requirements to those set forth in Executive Order 122, discussed here, but applies these requirements to the Restaurant and Transportation Industries.
Bars and dining establishments are already subject to restrictions limiting their services to delivery and takeout. Under Executive Order 125, they must also adopt policies that, at a minimum:
Continue Reading New Jersey implements additional mitigation requirements for restaurants and transit providers